Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Zambrano and Prior Go To Arbitration

After avoiding arbitration and agreeing to a 2-year/$2.5 million deal with Will Ohman, Jim Hendry and the Cubs will next deal with pitchers Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior. Zambrano is asking for $15.5 million next year and the Cubs have offered him $11.025 million. Prior is asking for $3.875 million in 2007 while the Cubs are offering $3.4 million

Zambrano’s demand doesn’t sound outrageous considering what middle-of-the-road pitchers received as free agents this off-season. But Zambrano is not a free agent and probably shouldn’t expect to receive that much. The Cubs offer seems fair.

Having said that, it may be a moot point. The Cubs would like to sign Zambrano to a long term deal that would feature a lower salary in 2007 and perhaps a “hometown discount” for the life of the deal. Zambrano may like the long-term contract idea, but I wouldn’t expect him to leave too much money on the table. There are planty of teams that will be willing to pay Zambrano’s asking price if the Cubs can’t agree with the right-hander on a long-term deal.

Prior made $3.65 million in 2007. For that money, Prior went 1-6 with a 7.21 ERA. Doesn’t it seem weird that he would ask for a raise after a year like that. Well, that’s part of big-time baseball in America. So Prior asked for a modest pay increase of $225,000 and the Cubs offered Prior $250,000 less than he made in 2006.

I understand that Cubs fans have grown weary of Prior’s one-injury-after-another act, but I think the criticism is a bit unfair. It’s not like he hurt himself sneezing. Prior’s injuries have either been competition related (i.e. running into Marcus Giles) or congenital (i.e. being born with a loose shoulder). It doesn’t seem to me that he’s a slacker.

Prior has a ton of potential and could still end up being the superstar people thought he would be a few years ago. He just needs to stay off the DL. Now while he is still relatively inexpensive is no time to give up on Prior.


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